BIRD BRAIN - a navigational dance project - is a comprehensive project that employs many of my long held artistic strategies. The project's melding of art with science illuminates the linkages between the natural world's fragile, delicate strength and the creative process. In doing so, BIRD BRAIN integrates my ongoing investigations into the nature of forms, which constantly renegotiate the symbiotic, contradictory and confrontational relationships between art, environment, power and place.
I am fascinated by migration and the links it creates between continents and ecosystems. The adaptability and flexibility of migrating and local birds that allows them to function together in symbiotic, supportive coexistence; the genetic programming that can provide a 5 week old adolescent bristle-thighed curlew with the wherewithal to fly 5,000 miles from the tundra of Alaska to the warm tropical islands of the South Pacific without stopping and unaccompanied by adult birds; and the myriad of song birds that migrate from Northern Canada across Northern Europe through the Mid East and down to the tip of Africa; all these journeys captivate me.
These small birds make contact with more parts of the earth than most of us could ever dream of. I am fascinated equally by how this migratory web parallels technological information webs in a material, delicate, infinitely complex and changing way and this, in turn, frames how I approach the body as a communication source.
How does technology enhance the possibilities of the body and of other natural systems and where does it impede? Where are the boundaries? What can be found in this possible marriage between the materiality of the body and, for example, the abstraction of digital information technology? Entomologist Hugh Dingle suggests, "migration is specialized behavior especially evolved for the displacement of the individual in space".
This could just as easily be a definition of dancing. As dancer/improvisers, we tune and hone our skills of navigation in order to move through the moment of creation with acute sensitivity to our surroundings, cultivating our senses to be prepared for the unpredictable and unexpected.
How do we navigate? Touch, smell, hearing, sight. Birds use their peripheral vision as dancers do to sense unison and change in direction along with a variety of other navigation mechanisms. They orient themselves using the sun by day and the stars by night, also apparently sensing the earth's magnetic field and other clues, like the polarized light at sunrise and sunset, and the low frequency sound waves generated by trade winds and ocean surf. What remnants of navigation have been sustained in our human genes? What have they evolved into? Are they part of our calculating mathematical linguistic sense, our intuitive sense of home, of finding comfort, of the need to move, to be a nomad? Has language evolved from our need to navigate, establish place, and communicate location? How does the body continue to orient itself and navigate distance and time in response to the constant and rapidly increasing impositions and transmutations of technology on our human systems?